Many thanks to reader Alfredo Watkins, who recently purchased the hardcover edition of the ESV-CE from the Augustine Institute, and generously agreed to share a review on the blog!
I recently received my hardcover copy of the ESV-CE Holy Bible from the Augustine Institute. It is available for $27 (plus shipping), making it comparable in price to the hardcover Ignatius RSV2CE. Overall, I am very pleased! I went with the FedEx shipping and it arrived in just a few days with no issues. The hardcover version did not come with the box or letter that was included with Timothy’s bonded leather version, but the volume was shrink-wrapped and safely packaged.
The cover design on the front is very attractive. It makes one want to pick up the volume and hold it in one’s hands. The two ribbons, which match the color schema, also look quite nice.
The spine is somewhat busy. As you can see, there is quite a bit of text on there. In particular, the double instances of “ESV Catholic Edition” and “English Standard Version Catholic Edition” can seem rather repetitive at first.
However, I find that over time I don’t mind it, and in fact I am somewhat glad they designed it this way, since it emulates the spine of a “real” Crossway ESV. See, for example, here. One ecumenical benefit of this is to reinforce the notion that you and your evangelical friends really are using the same Bible.
The text is in the same format as the other ESV-CEs published by the Augustine Institute.
Part of the reason I went for this volume despite owning the original paperback “Augustine Bible” is that I prefer hardcovers. Until now, my go-to Bible for reading has still been my hardback Ignatius RSV2CE. The hardback ESV-CE will now likely come to share that role with my Ignatius Bible, and may even supplant it to some extent. They certainly complement each other nicely.
Both Bibles are about the same height.
However, the Ignatius Bible is definitely thicker, by just under 1/2 an inch. (Of course, the benefit of this that the Ignatius Bible has minimal ghosting.)
The hardcover ESV-CE also contains some small but notable improvements to the original paperback Augustine Bible. In the first place, it was a great idea to stop calling it that. Until more features are added than the bare text of the ESV-CE itself, it seems more appropriate to have the cover and spine simply state the name of the translation. (Plus, you will no longer have to explain to your Protestant friends that this is not some strange Bible different from theirs.)
The hardcover is definitely thinner, and lies open more flatly, giving you a wider inner margin. Most importantly, the paper quality is noticeably better, at least in my copy. The paper is whiter, and ghosting seems to be less of an issue. You can see the difference in paper quality and coloration here (paperback Augustine Bible on the left, hardback on the right).
Ultimately, I am very happy with this Bible. It will certainly be one of my primary Bibles going forward, though I must say that occasionally I prefer a reading in the RSV2CE over the ESV-CE. Interestingly, there are a few cases where the RSV2CE modified the original RSV-CE translation while the ESV-CE kept it. Just to give one example from the Mass readings the other day, Psalm 138 in the ESV-CE has this:
“I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise.”
The ESV-CE follows the RSV-CE in referring to “gods,” while the RSV2CE (like the NABRE) reads “angels”:
“I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the angels I sing your praise.”
Another example in the Psalms is the reading of “mercy” vs. “steadfast love.” I like “mercy.” Interestingly, I often find myself slightly preferring the RSV2CE Psalms as being just a little bit more readable. And in the New Testament, there is the matter of “expiation” vs. “propitiation.” I like “expiation.” (Obviously, Crossway doesn’t!) For these and other reasons, I will probably be using both translations, and I don’t believe one can fully replace the other. That goes both ways, though, and having spent some time with it I definitely think the ESV-CE is worth adding to one’s library.
I hope at some point in the future to get a bonded leather copy to compare the hardcover with (probably distant future though on my budget!). But if you like hardcovers like I do, this is a great, relatively affordable choice. The improvements in quality over the earlier Augustine Bible, as well as the Augustine Institute’s swift move to offer these new Bibles at competitive prices, are good signs that they are listening to their customers and that we can expect them in the future to be responsive to what ESV-CE readers would like to see. As their visually pleasing new website illustrates, the Augustine Institute appears to be all-in on this project, so I am sure there are more good things to come.